R. Murray Schafer

R. Murray Schafer

STEPHEN ADAMS
Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1983
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt15jjck2
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  • Book Info
    R. Murray Schafer
    Book Description:

    Adam traces the development of Schafer's music from his early works in a mild neo-classical vein to his experimentation with various modernist procedures.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-1509-0
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xi-2)
  6. 1 Biography
    (pp. 3-30)

    Since 1975, Murray Schafer has made his permanent home in a one-hundred-year-old log farmhouse in Monteagle Valley, a few miles north of Bancroft, Ontario. Bancroft is a small town some three hours’ drive north and east of Toronto, on the edge of the Muskoka-Haliburton cottage region, but not really part of it. The farmhouse, empty when Schafer bought it, has been made habitable with some difficulty; the farm itself is not picturesque. The region is rich in character, however–full of associations with Group of Seven canvases and, for him, with personal memories of boyhood summer holidays. Schafer’s move to...

  7. 2 Writings
    (pp. 31-60)

    Schafer belongs to that small group of composers whose intellectual attitudes are nearly as important as the sounds they combine in their music. Certain obvious comparisons spring to mind: Berlioz, Schumann, Wagner, Ives, Cage. Like all these composers, Schafer has produced a body of prose explaining his artistic acts. Like most of them, he places himself squarely in the musical tradition that we call romantic. Schafer’s own brand of romanticism, however, must be defined with some care.

    His romanticism has often been noted – for better or worse. Despite his youthful starting point in Stravinskian neo-classicism, Schafer’s mental map of...

  8. 3 Early works 1952–9
    (pp. 61-70)

    Schafer’s development as a composer from the earliest works toLovingsuggests no pattern that can be called logical or ‘organic.’ Rather, it shows a process of trying out available modern styles in succession, gradually assimilating various stylistic languages. During the first several years, Schafer modelled his music on the neo-classical composers of the 1920s – Stravinsky, Milhaud, Poulenc. This style, which seemed adventurous at the time, found support in the teaching of John Weinzweig, whose non-serial works, like the Copland-inspired balletRed Ear of Corn(1949), stem from the same background. The very existence of these early neo-classical works...

  9. 4 Stylistic experiment 1960–5
    (pp. 71-91)

    In a 1976 interview, Schafer remarked on the changes in his music after 1960:

    Yes, it began to change, but very gradually. I’m a slow learner, and so I reflect on things and think about them for a long time before there’s a noticeable change. I think the changes are on the whole organic. I’ve used the word before – I like it; it seems to me the way I am… If I think back to that period of 1960 and the kind of‘imitation Berio’I was writing then, and I think of what I’m doing now, there have been enormous,...

  10. 5 Loving (1965)
    (pp. 92-99)

    ‘The Geography of Eros’ (November 1963) was the first portion ofLovingcompleted. Conceived as an independent composition, it was performed on 5 April of the following year by Mary Morrison, with a hint in the program notes that it might eventually form part of a larger work that would ‘bear a remote similarity to opera.’ The projected work remained vague, however, even when Schafer delivered a lecture on it at Memorial University, Newfoundland, on 3 January 1965.¹ Immediately afterwards the work assumed definite shape when Pierre Mercure secured a commission and a performance on television from the CBC French...

  11. 6 Lustro (1969–72)
    (pp. 100-108)

    To survey Schafer’s output sinceLovingby genre rather than chronologically does not mean that he ceased to develop. Since 1965 he has extended the spatial aspects of his music, he has developed the expressive capacity of graphic notation, he has continued to explore new vocal techniques, particularly in an impressive series of choral works, and he has tested ways of incorporating environmental concerns into his scores; he has also improved his electronic techniques, and he has proceeded fromLovingto the greater complexities ofPatria. Still,Lovingis the watershed of his career and the wellspring of all his...

  12. 7 Instrumental works since 1965
    (pp. 109-136)

    Schafer’s career as an orchestral composer has been a love-hate relationship with the central institution of musical romanticism. While he has gone on record as believing the orchestra to have outlived its usefulness, he has continued to write for it – if only on commission and sometimes in subversive ways. Part of his animus arose from the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s refusal to performDivan i Shams i Tabriz; but his convictions have remained firm. Like the opera company, the symphony orchestra is bound up with a dead, or at least dying, romantic tradition.

    Romantic music has become institutionalized in conservatories,...

  13. 8 Vocal and choral works since 1965
    (pp. 137-170)

    Unquestionably, Schafer’s most distinctive music has a theatrical flair. Four vocal works were chiefly responsible for establishing his international reputation in the years immediately afterLoving, giving impetus to his most prolific decade. Two of these,ThrenodyandEpitaph for Moonlight, are educational pieces that accommodate Schafer’s idiom to the understanding of young people. Two others, however, make no compromises:Gita won a succès d’estimeat the Tanglewood Festival in 1967, though it has not been performed since;Requiems for the Party-Girl, on the other hand, is Schafer’s most frequently heard work apart fromEpitaph. It has been recorded three...

  14. 9 The Patria sequence (1966– )
    (pp. 171-177)

    Patrianeeds to be deciphered like a cryptogram. All solutions are correct. There are thousands of messages on different frequency bands. No one can hope to decipher them all. For there are millions of universes, as many as there are human intelligences.’ This particular message is conveyed on one of the less accessible frequency bands: Morse code sounded by woodwinds near the beginning ofPatria1. But it is perhaps the best summation of Schafer’s still unfinishedmagnum opus.Patriacreates a universe so saturated with information that information becomes a blur, so full of communication that communication withers. Yet...

  15. 10 Epilogue (1979– )
    (pp. 178-186)

    Since 1979, Schafer’s life, centring in Monteagle Valley, Ontario, has proceeded along lines already set down, his interests in certain areas intensifying in some surprising ways. If anything, these interests have become ever more entangled, so that separate categories are even harder to perceive than they were. But through all, the paradox of Schafer’s position remains. He lives simultaneously in two worlds: the world ofPatria, a private place of teasing symbolism and modernistic idiom, and the world of Monteagle Valley, a community of people living in a specific environment. These worlds are not separable: they interpenetrate, occupy the same...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 187-198)
  17. APPENDIX 1: Compositions by R. Murray Schafer
    (pp. 199-206)
  18. APPENDIX 2: Discography
    (pp. 207-208)
  19. APPENDIX 3: Synopsis of Loving
    (pp. 209-213)
  20. APPENDIX 4: Synopsis of Apocalypsis
    (pp. 214-220)
  21. APPENDIX 5: Synopsis of Patria
    (pp. 221-226)
  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-233)
  23. Index
    (pp. 234-240)